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Bahamas ‘marred’ by ‘environmental disaster’

  • Oil on Adelaide Beach in 2014.

  • Oil washing up at Adelaide Beach in 2014. PHOTOS: FILE

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Jul 07, 2017

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The continued seepage of oil off Clifton Pier has “marred” the reputation of The Bahamas, according to Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Executive Director Eric Carey.

Executive Director of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Casuarina McKinney-Lambert called it an “environmental disaster”.

The Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden at Clifton Pier, which was deployed by BREEF in 2014, is already covered in oil.

The oil seepage has been a long-standing issue. Environmentalists continue to call on the government to immediately find a way to fix the problem.

McKinney-Lambert said they have been advocating for years on the issue, but there has been no real movement to date.

“This is an issue of major concern for BREEF,” she said.

“The oil leak continues to negatively impact the environment, people, and our tourism industry.

“BREEF has long advocated for the cleanup and effective remediation of this environmental disaster.

“The BREEF sculpture garden has been an attraction that has inspired people from around the world to visit our beautiful waters, but the reality of the continued oil leak has been one that has left The Bahamas with a major black eye.

“This is an environmental disaster that hurts us all and desperately needs to be addressed.”

Expressing similar concerns yesterday, Carey said, “It is a vexing problem.

“It is such a vexing problem, that in addition to the obvious negative impact on the environment, putting these horrible pollutants in the environment...I think the real cost is the reputation to The Bahamas.

“If we figure how much we have to spend to unmarket the effect of that negative story, ‘come to The Bahamas and you are going to get oiled up’, that is a very powerful negative thing.

“Our reputation continues to be eroded, so there is a significant cost to that.”

Carey pointed out that the area is a part of the marine protected areas (MPAs) announced by the Christie administration in 2015.

“The marine environment is going to be impacted by this and the Bahamas National Trust is going to be involved in the management of this marine managed area, so we are going to have certainly a vested interest,” he said.

“We are going to have continued concern about the impact the oil is going to have on the marine environment.”

Carey added, “There is an urgent need to figure out what the problem is, how much it costs, and how to go about fixing it.”

On Monday, Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira, an expert in the field of environmental science, said it could take up to $100 million and years to remediate the problem of oil seeping into the sea off southwest New Providence.

Ferreira stressed that, that figure only came from his own estimates as an environmental specialist, and not from any formal assessments.

The Christie administration had previously projected a $30 million price tag on the remediation of the area.

However, Ferreira suggested the number was unrealistic and said serious consideration ought to be given to shutting the site down in order to address the issue.

Carey insisted yesterday that no matter the cost of remediation, action must be taken.

In a 2016 report, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) was identified as the source for oil leaking into the marine environment.

In a statement on Monday, Bahamas Power and Light, a subsidiary of BPL, said, “…Please be advised that there was no oil spill in the Clifton area. From time to time, based on the current or weather, we do experience increased seepage of product due to the porous nature of the limestone.

“There are containment booms that have been erected and are working to prevent the majority of this product from entering open water.

“However, in instances where additional seepage does occur, a mediation team goes out to recover product in the immediate area.

“BPL understands that this issue is an ongoing challenge and concerted efforts continue to remediate the issue.”

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